Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

If a barista makes a latte in Brooklyn and no one takes a photo, is it still delicious?

I need a timeout. 

Social media has become too big a priority for me and I've absent-mindedly given it too much authority over my time. After reading this blog today (#JOMO is a thing, catch on world) and hearing my pastor speak for the past couple of weeks about the importance of creating space in your life, I decided that this break (particularly from Instagram) was a necessary one. 

I have curated my Instagram account in such a way that I follow mostly people who inspire me with their creativity. So, it's generally a good thing. From photographers to fashion bloggers and foodies, the bulk of my Instagram feed consists of beautiful images of work worthy of appreciation in the form of a "double tap." (I also just have some really talented friends if I may say so.) I see the platform as a place where people share knowledge and ideas. It's the reason I love it so much more than any of the other social media platforms. But, I find that lately it's too much of a good thing.

I'm struggling with comparison in ways that I shouldn't and I don't like the feeling of anxiety I get when I can't access it for more than a certain amount of time. Being tied to something like that doesn't fit into the freedom life that I am designed for. I recently realized I was checking Insta on my phone upwards of thirty times a day on average. Any time I am even slightly bored or find myself in a mildly awkward social situation, the phone comes out and I am looking at pictures so fast that sometimes I don't even realize what I am doing. I started using it as a sort of safety net when I'm too lazy to put it down and have an actual conversation and I don't like that. I spend way more time looking at little square photos on my phone than I do praying or meditating, talking to my family, or actually creating any of the wonderful things I have been inspired to by the people I follow there. 

Anil Dash discusses a beautiful idea in his blog about the "Joy of Missing Out.

"Being the one in control of what moves me, what I feel obligated by, and what attachments I have to fleeting experiences is not an authority that I'm willing to concede to the arbitrary whims of an app on my mobile phone. I think more and more people are going to retake this agency over their feelings about being social, as well. That's a joyful thing." 

So, I decided to take the next week completely off of not just Instagram, but all social media platforms as a trial run to experience some #JOMO. 

Some people are probably saying "A week? Really? WTF?" But that's huge for me, someone who (literally) works in, volunteers with, eats and breathes social. The point is to come back with fresh perspective and more healthy habits. If that means I am only getting on Instagram once or twice a day, so be it. If I want to extend the social fast for another week...great! 

As for work, I'll still have to log on intermittently for my job(s), but I won't check my own accounts. I want to have some time to catch up to myself and utilize the "moments" to actually think for a second. I don't want to be afraid of the nothingness. 

Why announce it like it's some big deal? I mean, people survived for...well, for always without social media up to this point. I guess I hope by posting this it encourages some of my friends to also think about what we're sowing into and how we're spending our time. I don't want us to be known as the generation who won't look up. 

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can't lose, right? 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

No Vacancy for Fear.

1 John 4:17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Confinement vs. Conviction

Is Galatians 5 the actual most comprehensive chapter in the Bible? Because every word on the page has hit me like a wave today.

Galatians 5:1
Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.

I think it's interesting that Paul felt like he needed to use the word "free" two times in this sentence in his letter to the church in Galatia. You would think it would be enough just to simply say "Christ has set us free." That's a pretty bold statement in and of itself.

But, the Galatians still were not taking God's promise at face value. Some of them were quick to believe the old religious leaders who had come back into the community to hit them with the rulebook and judge them.  So they went back to running around trying to prove themselves worthy, even though Jesus has already done all the work by going to the Cross. They were using religion as a tool to get closer to God. But, Paul says no. Not at all.

Jesus Christ set us free to live a free life, not to be bound the inconsequential rules and laws that kept us down in the first place. Christ set us free so that we would accept his gift and live a free life.

Our lives should look like a blast, really. (Speaking into my own life so much right now.) He called us to live a FREE life. You can replace that word and say He set us free to live a fun, true, authentic, glorious, light-filled, happy life. We carry His name when we accept Him into our hearts and our lives represent that name. We have access to the best kind of existence there is. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says that if we follow him, our burden will be easy and light. That should appeal to this world, where everything looks dark sometimes. People who live of this world struggle with depression, pain, addiction, stress, worry, and doubt. Our lives should look like an invitation to them.

So, we don't walk around our neighborhood with frowns on our faces, kept down by religious practices and rules and contrived spiritual imprisonment. WE. ARE. FREE.

If you want to follow the religious rules and practices of an extremely structured environment, fine. Some people still stand up when a preacher reads from the Bible in church, out of reverence. That's cool. Some people only listen to "Christian music" (sidenote: aren’t all talents and gifts bestowed upon us by God, really having nothing to do with our own worthiness and therefore isn't any Christian that makes music technically making Christian music? Another blog, another day...)

What Paul is saying is, don’t think for a second that any of that qualifies you for anything and don't you dare try to confine other people by tempting them into a life defined by rules and religion, rather than a relationship with the Spirit. For me, I think it can be easy to get conviction confused with confinement.

Paul even goes as far as to say that if you submit to a rule-keeping system, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but you are actually squandering Jesus Christ's hard won gift of freedom.

Gal. 5: 4-6
I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.

Um. I don't know about you, but the last thing I need is to fall out of grace. I need Jesus so much, it's ridiculous. I am incredibly selfish. Like seriously, that is my numero uno sin if that were such a thing. My mind is constantly consumed with all the ways I can serve myself. What will make me happy? How far will this get me in my career? Where should I be living, working, etc? It's really #enoughalready.

Paul addresses that, too.

Gal 5:16-18
Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

WHAT. Yep, that's for me. Hit me where it hurts.

So, we shouldn't live by a set of made up rules. We should just live by faith and be guided by the Spirit and nothing else.  I wish someone would have sat me down and said this very thing to me the day I first met Jesus. I could have avoided a lot of wasted time trying to be good.

In the same way that it squanders the gift of the Cross to live by anything other than His grace and gift, we know it's wrong to misrepresent His name. We live free lives so that we are not controlled by heretical religion  (which is of this world) and also so that we are not controlled by the vices the world tries to offer us (which are also of this world.)

Certainly, it's possible to misinterpret Paul's letter to the Galatians to say that all things are permissible. That's not true at all and that isn't what he meant.

Gal 5: 13-15
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love, that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.

While we try to avoid being tied down by the nonsense distraction that is religion, we should be equally as wary of things that would seek to divert us from our purpose.

*For instance, drinking in social environments and in moderation doesn't detract from your Christianity at all.

But, it sets a bad example to lose your self-control in a form of escapism. The best way I have ever heard it put is by my pastor who once said it this way: He was discussing a new song called "Get Faded," in which the lyrics go something like "I wake up in the morning, get faded. Go to work. Get faded." His retort was that that is a terrible way to live, because God is doing something spectacular in each of our lives and collectedly in this City and the world, and I don't want to miss a single second of that by being out of my mind.

Truthfully, I don't want to escape my life. And I don't want to distort it by prescribing to the humanistic ideals the world has put in front of me. From the outside looking in, it looks like there are just two choices. Accept religion or accept this world as it is. But, I reject them both. I choose the only honest way I know how to live, and that's to listen to the One who holds the future of the world in his hands.

I feel like every lyric in this song pretty much sums it up...

"Lord, I Need You" -Chris Tomlin 

Lord I come, I confess. Bowing here, I find my rest. Without You, I fall apart. You're the one that guides my heart. 

Lord, I need You, oh I need You. Every hour I need You. My one defense, my righteousness- Oh God, how I need You. 

Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more. Where grace is found is where You are. And where You are, Lord I am free. Holiness is Christ in me. Yes, where You are Lord I am free. Holiness is Christ in me.

So teach my soul to rise to You, when temptation comes my way. And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You. Jesus You're my hope and stay. And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You. Jesus You're my hope and stay. 

*Not an all-inclusive statement for people who struggle with addictions and self-control. I can see how it would probably best to stay away all together in that case; listening to the Spirit guiding you. I am certainly not qualified to give advice on that matter. Only God can do that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Fight You Have to Lose to Win

It's not about you. Because if it was about you, it wouldn't be as good.

I've been on a journey home for a while now. For a long time, I've let mistakes and messed up situations in my past haunt my future. I truly felt that I was just a lost cause. I was too confused, too messed up, too anxious, too far gone, too whatever for God to ever restore in me whatever plan he'd once had for my life. Not only is that totally ludicrous when you think of what God means and who he is, but it is also a gross misunderstanding of the scope of His love for us.

Like most stories, this one starts some time ago. And also like so many stories, this one is rooted in a childhood dream.

When I was very young, I felt strongly like God was saying something to me about a covenant or a promise with Jacob, the guy in the Bible that fathers the twelve tribes of Israel. To be clear, it's not like the angel Gabriel came bursting out of the sky on a cloud with a trumpet and said those words to me in English. That's not to say that could never happen. I guess Elijah used to chill with the angels of Heaven all the time back in the day. But, I don't think God has to work that way in us. It was just a quiet confirmation in my spirit that happened one day when I was praying and I asked God to show me what it meant. I never did find out and as time passed, I convinced myself that I made it up and went about my life. It wasn't long after that at all that I started high school and essentially abandoned everything I knew. I made a big mistake and after that, I went into a tailspin. I let myself be convinced that I could never be what I once thought. I let myself be defined by a series of bad decisions for the better part of a decade.

My dream was stolen. Ruined.

Writing this now is not a decision I take lightly because, as it is with God, you never know who it could meet right where they are. Maybe writing this down is just something I need to do for me, but I really hope it isn't. That is the reason I am telling this story. I think my generation is full of dream chasers and yet, none of us know what we're chasing after. How are we ever going to fill that nagging void in our guts?

Just over a year ago, at 22 years old, I started to tip toe back into the idea of reading my Bible. I had picked it up a time or two in the years gone by, but I couldn't face the guilt when I looked at it for more than a minute or two. Dusting it off this time was really one of my first acts as an adult Christian.

Eight years after first hearing it, that thought about God's covenant with Jacob came back into my mind. I hadn't thought of it again, except in passing, in many years. So, I did what any millennial would do. I Googled it. What I found brought me to tears and as I began sifting through my Bible, I finally found the verse I'd been searching for my entire adult life without even knowing it. What I read was nothing short of God's supernatural will. (Insert part of blog where skeptics stop reading and feel well adjusted in their assertion of Christians as crazy people. Listen, I can't explain it either.)

We often worry about missing God's will for our life. I know I do. I'm always scrambling around trying to decide if I've made the "right" decision and wondering if I'll ever be truly happy. But, the truth is that God will even use our mistakes for His will to be done. His plans can never be upset.

What I found in my Bible said this...

*Genesis 28:15
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.

Jacob is famous for his trepidation at following God's plan for his life. In fact, God later renamed him Israel, which means "wrestles with God." The lesson here is that it's no use wrestling with God.  The even bigger lesson here is that after Jacob literally wrestled with God in the desert, God touched his hip and it was broken. So, for the rest of his life, Jacob walked with a limp. He was a broken man, but God blessed him greatly. He was an extremely imperfect person, and essential to God's plan. Now he has an entire country named after him.

For so long, I let the ghosts of my past keep me from my future. I made so many excuses about how unqualified I was for the task. I put myself through so much punishment only to realize that I can't clean myself up. I CANNOT REDEEM MYSELF. The entire premise of this beautiful faith is the "come as you are" invitation from Jesus Christ himself. You don't need to clean yourself up or get your act in order before you meet Jesus. It's only after an encounter with him that you'll be changed from the inside out!

The beauty of this life lies in the fact that we will never, ever be worthy. But, I know the One who is.

You are not defined by your mistakes.

You are not even defined by your successes.

And thank God, because you are ONLY defined by the one who made you, which qualifies you for a life that will exceed even your wildest expectations.

*Isaiah 40: 27-31
Why would you ever complain O Jacob, or whine, Israel, saying "God has lost track of me. He doesn't care what happens to me,"? Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening? God doesn't come and go. God lasts. He's Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles. They run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The longest of weekends.

Labor Day weekend in New York is supposed to be a celebration. Everyone gets a day off of work and school and spends their days enjoying the very last of Summer. These three days of freedom are intended to be spent outdoors, soaking up the sun before the time has come for scarves and boots.

I am very much inside today.

If there is such a thing as a black cloud, I'm pretty sure I need an umbrella. The order of the universe has aligned itself such that a slew of unfortunate events has come upon me so as to ruin my long weekend. No going out to meet friends for drinks. No church service gatherings. None of that stuff that was planned is going to go down this long weekend because it can't.

On Monday morning, I woke up and I was too tired to go in to work. That's the first time I have ever called out of my job. I had been burning the candle at both ends (excuse the threadbare phrase, but there is a literal candle on my desk, I felt an obligation to it's inspiration) and I just couldn't muster the will power. The night before, I was strolling down 34th street to the Manhattan Center for a special church service taking place that night and I stepped on something. It hurt. I took my boot off to find that my foot was actually bleeding. After some serious effort on behalf of my family and friends at church to calm me, I was able to get past it. But, it was scary and I tend to take unfortunate events way too literally. As in, I stepped on a piece of metal and the cosmos are attacking me. (In my defense, I really don't have an up to date tetanus shot. Could it have been a needle? I don't know.)

So, I called out. I did. Intending to spend the day catching my breath, I woke up, poured my self a cup of coffee, and just when I thought it was safe to call it a good day, all hell broke loose in my apartment's bathroom. We almost flooded the whole place. That took another three days to be fixed. Strategically timing your pees to places like school and work is really difficult in NYC, what with the long commutes and all.

Friday finally arrives, as it does, and I couldn't wait to spend the weekend relaxing, catching up on grad school, and going out with friends. Nope. I literally fell in a hole whilst walking down the street just 1 block and a half shy of my building! That hole was out for blood, it was. I took a tumble, many people came running (Brooklynites are very nice...don't let anyone convince you otherwise,) and it was truly a scene. By morning, there was a lump the size of a tennis ball on my ankle. The urgent care doctor calls it a "metatarsal fracture" and bad ankle sprain. A soft cast has been applied and I have a follow up with the bone doctor next week.

As I lay in my bed looking at my pretty art, I wonder when the wind will come and blow this black cloud away, bringing some welcome sunshine.

Philippians 4:6
Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Stuff of Life . . .

Tough week. Stuff to get through it.

Empire State

Nifty Thrifty warehouse sale! Steeply discounted velvet loafers inside. <3

Ring holder or glass? 

Foggy freedom mornings. 

S'Nice carrot cupcake on a tough day. Yum. 

Gramercy Park, a most beautiful NYC neighborhood.

So inviting on a rainy day. 

Photos for life.